Hi, I’m back! Your one and only late-night blogging auntie who has found a fond new attachment to amaretto and salt lamps (unrelated, but both pretty chillllll). It’s my new quarantine #vibe.
So, I invite you to turn on that salt lamp - or maybe just light a candle -, pour yourself a glass of something and join me on my journey of figuring out how to be both productive and okay with my lack of productivity in the midst of lockdown. Big contradictory stuff, ya feel?
Chapter 1: The Video
A few weeks ago my friend sent me this video. It sounded interesting. Spaceship, lockdown… and a chasm to the terrifying question “what productive thing did you do today?”. A day or two passes, and I finally sit down to watch it on my laptop. I was right to give it my full attention, and I strongly encourage you to do so too.
I could say a lot about Spaceship You: Lockdown Productivity, but my biggest takeaway is to break your lockdown experience into manageable methods. Physical and mental health are two halves of a whole, and ultimately when things are slipping, when reality is harder to hold onto, prime with the physical. You cannot help your mental health without helping your physical first. Physical doesn’t just mean exercise - it means your environment. Your environment affects you, and equally, you affect your environment.
Anyway, the video explains it a lot better than I’ve done it justice. This one video isn’t the solution to every problem, but it’s sent me down an interesting road of self-productivity-discovery.
Chapter 2: This Ain’t Easy, Although Internet Spiralling Really Is
Lockdown has been tough. For me, it’s been filled with huge waves of ups and downs. There have been spurts of intense productivity (for a hot second, I really did think I was going to become an air-drying-clay-incense-holder-Etsy-seller). But these ups have been followed by huge swings into deep, dark nothingness.
As the video I keep piping on about says: “What can start as a break from life, will, unchecked, become something much worse…”
In the moment, snuggled into bed, spiralling into a YouTube hole doesn’t feel too bad. One might surface, momentarily, like a sleepy cat coming out of its stupor to notice a bird out of the window, only to shake that reality and sink back into the hole because acknowledging what it is - a hole - is too scary. Acknowledging that I’ve left emails unread or messages unresponded or an ever-growing to-do list unattempted feels too much like a looming monster. Sometimes the hardest part of solving a problem is just starting to.
Chapter 3: The Past Isn’t Comparable
Three years ago today I graduated from a pretty cool arts academy/boarding school. That whole year I somehow had a very active social life, good grades, side projects on top of my intensive school schedule, and I even managed to exercise occasionally. I’m also pretty sure I averaged 7hrs of sleep, although mainly due to the fact that I could roll out of bed and be in class within twenty minutes (boarding school has some serious perks). You know those Venn diagrams that say if you want good grades and a social life you can’t sleep, or if you want sleep and grades, forget about socialising? Yeah okay, somehow I had it all.
Why am I sharing this? Mainly; context. For 9 months I somehow immersed myself in every aspect of life that I saw as valuable. It was full-on, non-stop and exhausting. But also, incredibly fulfilling.
Now, three years on, it’s Lockdown. And I’m furloughed from my job, with more time on my hands than I’ve ever had on a per-weekly basis since I was a toddler.
At first, a break from an endless schedule felt really good. Not working, not even side-project-ing… it felt like a deep breath. Like a strangely quiet and inactive holiday.
Chapter 4: Time Disappearing
After a lot of “nothing” and “relaxing”, I started to understand that doing “nothing” has its own problems. An emptiness, quickly snowballing into a feeling of failure swallowed me whole a month or so into my non-working lockdown existence. I hadn’t done nothing - that’s quite impossible, in fact - but I didn’t feel like after a month I had much to show.
And that was utterly terrifying.
Time was slipping, and without markers to actually tell when exactly it first decided to slide away. How had this happened? I have dreamt of unscheduled time to write and create and think for years of my life. And somehow, no novel had been written.
I’ve noticed an excuse has kept cropping up for me, that I haven’t even allowed myself to verbalise in my own head until now, which is “you’ve wasted x amount of time, it’s not even worth trying now”. That might be referring to a few hours of the morning - or maybe a whole week. As I said, starting is the hardest part.
It’s like running. I began to run near the start of lockdown. I’ve never been a serious runner. I mainly tried it in the past as a quick way to get some exercise in. I used the excuse of how embarrassing it is to be seen running (my face gets REALLY red) to prevent me from having to do it.
But then I realised that no one cares. And if they do, it doesn’t matter because YOU are putting yourself out there. You’re doing something really hard. No one just wakes up and runs a marathon without any form of training. You have to start somewhere. Just like any old to-do list.
Chapter 5: Figuring It Out?/Starting Somewhere
So what am I trying to say in all of this rambling?
I guess I don’t really know exactly. I’m still figuring out productivity, especially in lockdown. And motivation. And how my environment affects my creativity. And a lot of other things.
I want to say it’s okay to do nothing, but I also want to warn you to not leave your time unchecked. Because self-care isn’t bubble baths and binge-watching Friends (it CAN be, but you’re not going to fix your life problems with one facemask) - it’s forming healthy habits and boundaries and schedules and routines and repeating them again and again and again even if they’re tough. Like going running. Like getting up at a scheduled time. Like not binge-eating a bag of Oreos because you’re bored and sad (guilty as charged).
Sometimes adult life sucks because you have to be your own parent. Check-in with yourself every day. I’ve spent a lot of time getting mad at myself for not being productive, beating myself up over the lack of work I’ve produced. Honestly, it’s not helpful. Hiding from myself and then getting frustrated over and over again do nothing but perpetuate an unhealthy cycle.
But, getting up and starting - just trying - is far better.
So, if you’re feeling a bit like Major Tom floating out in space without any plan, I’d recommend you buckle down, and watch this video. It’s helped me create a structure in the midst of chaos.
I bid you adieu with two important reminders:
I wish you the best in your lockdown spaceship, whatever it may look like.